Without safe water, women endure physical danger and strain with young girls missing school while fetching water.
A drive along the streets of Spitzkop as early as 5am follows a trail of desperate women and children clutching water buckets in search of water.
“We have no choice but to come here early to fetch water,” says one young mother, Thobekile Toma (16) as she patiently queues for her turn at the community tap. “I usually come earlier to fetch water before the queue gets longer. This is a desperate situation; we need help.”
Toma and other women around her neighborhood daily, spend many hours in the morning queuing at the community taps where they buy a 20 litre bucket of water for 2 Rand.
After buying a single 20 litre bucket of water, Toma has to rush home to feed and care for her 4-months-old baby.
It is a women’s daily struggle that Toma has to endure.
“We have heard reports of abuse at the community tap, with some men wanting to take advantage of women for just helping them to carry their water buckets,” says Toma.
Residents residing at suburbs such as Spitzkop North Extension, Phakama, Senondo and Ultra in the Matabeleland South capital have faced water challenges for years.
In 2011, the council started constructing a five megalitre water reservoir in Gwanda town to solve the water crisis.
Upon its completion in 2019, the only remaining work on the project involved the connection of pipes from the water reservoir to the houses but to date there has been no movement.
The Gwanda municipality had at first projected that the project would be completed by November 2017, but failed due to financial problems.
It resumed after the central government chipped in with ZW$800 000.
“We thought our problems had been solved but years later, we are still facing the same crisis after the completion of a so-called water reservoir,” Toma says.
Masekelantaba residents at Spitzkop complained that the water they receive from community taps is contaminated and dirty, raising fears of water borne diseases.
Spitzkop resident, Silenkosi Ncube, 27, says she has resorted to buying mineral water whenever she has money.
“This other day my son started complaining of stomach pains after drinking tap water. Surely we cannot afford to live like this,” Ncube adds.
The water crisis has also affected the business community in the small mining town.
Writing on Gwanda Business Platform, a WhatsApp group where business men, council officials included discuss development projects for the town, one business man, Zac Gava says: “There’s no business without clean water. Gwanda needs clean water for better business. What the council is doing isn’t good.”
A representative of Gwanda Residents Association (GRA), Wellington Nare says they petitioned Provincial Affairs minister Abednico Ncube and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) in January, 2022 to intervene.
In a petition dated January 3, the Gwanda Residents Association (GRA) and the Community Youth Development Trust (Cydt) said residents are denied access to water following the installation of the meters by Zinwa.
Zinwa installed the meters at the main reservoir to stop the municipality from accessing treated water without down payment, denying ratepayers access to water.
The municipality and Zinwa are at loggerheads over the control of water reticulation.
The central government allowed Zinwa to take over all water functions countrywide in 2006, a decision that was later reversed following protests from local authorities.
But Zinwa still controls the water supply and sewer infrastructure of councils such as Gwanda.
“As residents, we have been calling for Zinwa to hand over the management of water to the Gwanda municipality while Zinwa concentrates on its key mandate of running water sources,” Ncube says.
“We are suffering.”
Source: The Citizen’s Bulletin